Combating Cholera: Immediate Response Saves Lives in Haiti

AmeriCares Addresses Alarming Rise in Cases and Greater Need for Medicines and Supplies

Photo by Nadia Todres. All Rights Reserved.
Inside Samaritan’s Purse Cholera Treatment Center. Photo by Nadia Todres. All Rights Reserved.

americares quoteThe need is overwhelming,”

—Nancy Smith, logistics manager for
Samaritan’s Purse in Haiti

AmeriCares Haiti is determined to save as many lives as possible in the fight against cholera, mobilizing an immediate response to a sharp increase in cases with rush deliveries of medicines and supplies to meet urgent requests from health care partners.

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Cholera is treatable, but without prompt intervention the disease can kill quickly, making rapid response especially crucial to saving lives. The disease has claimed more than 5,200 lives among the 300,000+ cases reported in Haiti thus far.

“We’ve stepped up our cholera prevention work for many months in preparation for the rainy season, which creates a fertile breeding ground for the disease,” said Brian Hoyer, AmeriCares Haiti Country Director. “At the same time, we’ve kept well-stocked with supplies in anticipation of rising demands.”

Hoyer explained that many cholera treatment centers have reduced or halted operations as caseloads declined and funding was depleted. This left few centers prepared for the rapid spike in cases.

Lifesaving Response, Proactive Prevention Programs

The large 240-bed treatment center run by Samaritan’s Purse filled to near-capacity overnight, as some treatment centers throughout the country -- including Medicins Sans Frontier’s center in  Carrefour -- have been inundated with more new patients than they could handle.

“We’ve increased from 50 to about 200 patients overnight. The need is overwhelming,” said Nancy Smith, logistics director for Samaritan’s Purse. The AmeriCares shipment included $33,000 in rehydration salts, solution sets, lactated ringers IVs and catheters, sanitizer, gloves, and doxycycline to replenish exhausted supplies.

“Samaritan’s Purse is just one of many of our partners who have contacted us with emergency needs to keep up with the patient load,” said Hoyer. “We’ve also been proactively trying to prevent incidence of disease in the first place, particularly in hard-to-reach rural communities.”

Photo by Nadia Todres. All Rights Reserved.
Photo by Nadia Todres. All Rights Reserved.

AmeriCares recently partnered with the Haitian Health Foundation in Grand Anse to re-launch a rural outreach project aimed at health education and rapid rehydration in communities where the mortality rate was among the worst during the height of the outbreak. Also in May, AmeriCares distributed 500 hygiene kits to benefit 2,500 people in Baradères and other rural communities to safeguard against severe infection.

Our in-country presence, quick response and demonstrated ability to deliver large volumes of  supplies has positioned AmeriCares Haiti as one of a handful of organizations that can effectively meet national needs in the ongoing cholera crisis. Since October, 2010, we’ve sent $4.9 million in cholera aid to Haiti, working with 47 partners, including the Ministry of Health, to help drive mortality rates from nearly 7 percent at the onset to 1.7 percent at present.